Iresi, a sleepy community in Osun State, boosts the morale of residents with the annual Iresi Socio-Cultural Festival,” reports GBOYEGA ADEOYE
Residential buildings, some of them built over a hundred years ago, line the lone road that snakes through the ancient city. Old men and women, some holding walking sticks taller than their frail, bending physiques, made quite a sight in the crowd that turned out for the annual Iresi Socio-Cultural Festival.
The three day event is packaged to showcase hidden talents, ranging from academics to natural arts, as a way of boosting the morale of residents of the sleepy community. Founded about 812 years ago, Iresi community that has suffered untold neglect in the past. Almost all the houses that dominate the community are ramshackle.
Their rusty roof assaults the sight as you move round the rocky town. When one observes the environment carefully, however, no one needs any conviction that this is a community where culture is already bidding farewell to the teeming youths who, apparently, have no place for it.
And this seems to be why the Oyeladeniran Foundation for Community Development, OFCOD, presented itself as a timely voice to salvage the rich culture that was once the symbol of the community. The OFCOD was established to celebrate Late Pa and Mrs. Adeniran Awoniyi who were said to have been role models in the various communities where they lived in the course of their sojourn on earth.
The sole aim of the foundation, according to the festival coordinator, Debo Adeniran, who is also the Executive Chairman of Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL), is therefore, to reawaken the socio-cultural heritage of the Adeniran family, Iresi community, as well as that of the Yoruba nation, which it believed have propelled their forebears to utilize the value of self worth to engage in self help that galvanized them to became self reliant, without resorting to fraudulent practices and corruption that is now endemic and controls the sensibilities of the teeming youths of the town and the entire Yoruba race, as a whole.
The new trend has been a cause of worry to the traditional ruler of the town, His Royal Majesty, Oba Sikiru Ibiloye, the Oluresi of Iresi. He says, “This town was founded in 1200 AD and ever since, we have been living peacefully together. In the area of culture, Iresi is known to be a strict observer of laid down law and order. We have how we do our things and we have been following this until recently when civilization came in to erode many things.
This has not been a good experience because things are no longer working the way they used to. “I am particularly happy and my hope is raised with the concept being brought forward by the Oyeladeniran Foundation for Community Development, to revisit our culture with a view to aligning it with modern realities.”
According to the monarch, while it is true that the community has witnessed a dose of neglect in the past, hope abounds that there are better days ahead with the positive gesture towards development by some indigenes, as well as the incumbent government of Osun State, led by Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola.
These better days will not be completed without the king having a befitting palace to go with his title. Currently, the king dwells in an ancient palace with space not enough to contain the traditional artifacts expected in the abode of a renowned Yoruba Oba, like the Oluresi.
Though, the town has taken the initiative to build an ultra-modern palace for the king, development on the building is intermittently being stunted by lack of fund, making the completion of the palace fast becoming a mirage. However, the dull atmosphere that enveloped the ancient community came alive on the eve of the OFCOD event when local musicians were given the opportunity to display their talents by the organisers of the cultural fiesta at the Olowoye compound.
It was a night of fun as the youthful Fuji musicians took turns to display their talents. Children and teenagers gathered applauded their favourites in a show that also featured a superiority contest amongst a handful of the youthful Fuji musicians, who used their songs to assert their assumed class and even went ahead to condemn those they felt were challenging their status. The show had to be concluded early enough to give time for relaxation for the kick off proper in the morning of the following day. The kick off day was a carnival of sort.
The youths of the community gathered for a combined jog of about 6 kilometers. From the Olowoye compound, the crowd was a mish mash of the good, the bad and the ugly. While some trim youths dressed smartly in sports attires with sneakers to suit the athletic exercise, some middle aged men donned various shades unsuitable attires and were bent on participating in the event even when they did not comply with the mandatory free registration that preceded the contest.
Okanlawon, 43, clad in Ankara sewn into a “buba and sokoto” was one of this set of people who out of desperation to contest at the eleventh hour provided the needed comic relief to the hectic exercise.
Okanlawon, it was learnt, got wind of the fact that OFCOD would be giving cash rewards to winners in the activities lined up for the festival around 10pm the previous day. Not minding the fact that he did not have suitable clothes for a sporting event, he rushed out of his room the following morning and headed straight for the venue of the event. But Mrs. Adeniran-Adigun, secretary of the organising NGO, thought allowing Okanlawon to participate in the event was dangerous, considering his age and physique. Okanlawon who looked haggard and malnourished.
So, politely, she told him, “We are through with registration and I don’t think you can even be registered if there were chances considering your age and the fact that you don’t look like somebody that is prepared for the contest, judging by your mode of dressing.” If Okanlawon would agree that his dressing did not conform to the ones adorned by the youths around him, he was certainly not going to accept that he was spent and could not compete with the youths.
The opportunity to prove this presented itself as the ambulance and other vehicles to aid the racers proceeded from the Olowoye compound to the take off point at Orita Igbajo, with the officials. Knowing that the officials were already seated and were heading for the take off point, which is a distance of about 4 kilometers, Okanlawon began a race with the vehicles in a show of prove that he was still agile and fit for the contest. He actually made it to the point ahead of the vehicles, but fatigue soon set in. Okanlawon fell like a log of wood. It took the frantic efforts of participants who were at the point ahead of the officials to revive him.
By the take off time, he was still gasping for breath under a shade in a bid to gain full recovery. The Marathon race went well with no casualty. At the end of the contest, Ismaila Oladapo came top while Bode Odewale and Akinrinade Michael came second and third respectively.
It was Akinrinade Michael that came top in the mountaineering race. According to some of Oladapo’s peers who spoke to our correspondent, he has been a rare talent in sports. From football to athletics, he was said to have carved a niche for himself.
The entire community spoke of him as an exemplary sportsman with natural talents. “You don’t need to push him before he puts in his best when it comes to sporting activities. At the start of the Marathon race, it was clear that Ismaila would come out tops because he had been engaging himself in tasks harder than this even when there was no competition.
This is just a past time to him,” said one of the competitors in the early morning Marathon race. The sports events gave way for an interlineal cultural competition which commenced around 5:00 pm and continued well into the night.
At the cultural event, the Iresi people in their different lineages and groups displayed their interests, knowledge, talents and skills in dressing, music, dance, drama, poetry, speech making, trade, foods, arts and crafts. In all, eight groups featured in the display of oral poetry and dance.
The local hunters group was first to take the stage and was followed by the ancient Agbe group, Ifelodun group, Ajegunle group, Solabomi group, Omolere group and Orebe group. Ogundele Olusegun, an Ewi (Yoruba poetry) exponent was also on hand to display his poetic talent.
The groups were in their best and the crowd in the Ebekun Town Hall where the event took place were spell bound throughout the session. At the end of the day, the Agbe group came tops as a result of its unrivaled coordination and unique dance steps to match their Agbe output. The group was followed by the Ajegunle Group, which came second while the local hunters group came third.
The last day’s event was attended by the Osun State governor, Rauf Aregbesola as is the tradition. A paper tagged “Reinventing socio-cultural practices as means of sustaining individual and communal economy,” delivered by Prof. Samuel Ayodele of the Joseph Ayo Babalola University, Ikeji- Arakeji, in Osun State was an eye opener for a people whose youths are already becoming oblivious of the rich and protective customs that have been guiding the community over the years.
If OFCOD’s aim is to impact discipline to the youths of Iresi and re-oxygenate the dying rich culture of the people, then it is achieving this faster than anticipated. Many of the youths who spoke to Saturday Mirror after the event could not hide their joy and satisfaction since the commencement of the festival in 2011.
According to them, OFCOD has brought hope to them where they thought only despair exists. Oladapo who won the Marathon race said he now knows that his talent can push him to limelight if more hard work is put into it. “Nobody ever thought that a day would come when one of our indigenes will deem it fit to come and do a talent search such as this. We shall for ever be grateful to Comrade Debo Adeniran for this initiative and shall for ever remain ardent supporters of OFCOD through which this landmark discovery is being made.”
The event closed with a traditional night out, where only traditional dresses were allowed. Members of the community were encouraged to come with lineal traditional food. They danced themselves to daylight in an event they wished should have a rewind. But since everything that has a beginning must surely end, the band stopped the music and the curtain for the socio-cultural festival was drawn. All eyes are again fixed for yet another of such festival.
SOURCE: National Mirror.